Family clings to prayers as ninth grade football player fights for her life

Kendall Thomas, 14, was critically injured after being hit by a car on the North Paulding High School campus. She is a member of the school's ninth grade football team.

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Kendall Thomas, 14, was critically injured after being hit by a car on the North Paulding High School campus. She is a member of the school's ninth grade football team.

Kendall Thomas was hit by a car on the North Paulding High School campus

When Kendall Thomas told her father she wanted to play football, he wasn’t so sure.

“Why? Don’t you want to be a cheerleader?” Kelvin Thomas remembers asking the little girl.

No, Kendall replied. She wanted to play football. And when she proved she could outrun her brother while playing in the family’s backyard, her parents let her play. As a fifth grader, Kendall helped lead her team to the playoffs. Last fall, she started on defense for the North Paulding High School ninth grade team, her father said.

Now, the 14-year-old is dealing with the biggest battle of her life.

ExploreNorth Paulding High student critically injured when hit by car on campus

On Tuesday afternoon, she was on her way to practice when she was hit by a car in the school parking lot. Kendall was in a crosswalk when she was struck by a 17-year-old driver who failed to stop, according to a Georgia State Patrol report released Friday.

“By the time the car saw Kendall and she saw the car, it was too late,” Kelvin Thomas told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The impact threw Kendall to the curb, according to the State Patrol. The crash remains under investigation and troopers were able to obtain video footage from the school, the report states.

Kendall was taken by ambulance to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, where she underwent two emergency surgeries for a fractured skull. Somehow, she didn’t break any bones in her chest or back, her family said. But she remained unconscious Friday.

“As bad as we want her to wake up now, I want her to wake up when it’s time,” her mother, Shanna, said Thursday afternoon.

Kendall’s parents have been with her since learning she was injured. But a recent positive coronavirus test has prevented Shanna Thomas from going inside the hospital, so she’s been forced to stay outside. It hasn’t stopped her from talking to her daughter, she said.

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Kendall Thomas was in critical condition after being hit by a car on campus. She underwent two emergency surgeries at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital.

Credit: Family photo

Kendall Thomas was in critical condition after being hit by a car on campus. She underwent two emergency surgeries at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital.

Credit: Family photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Kendall Thomas was in critical condition after being hit by a car on campus. She underwent two emergency surgeries at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital.

Credit: Family photo

Credit: Family photo

“I tell her, ‘Wake up. Wake up when you’re ready,’” Shanna Thomas said. “I know you can hear me.”

Doctors have told Kendall’s parents it’s now a waiting game as her body tries to heal from the trauma. It’s an agonizing wait.

Late Monday, Kendall had done her best to stay awake to watch the Georgia Bulldogs win the national championship game, her father said. Late last month, the family went to an Atlanta Falcons game. While in the Dirty Birds Nest, Kendall held a winning ticket for a ball signed by Younghoe Koo, the Falcons kicker and her favorite player, her dad said.

Now, the family is relying on prayers and support from their community. A sign at the school says #PrayForKendall and a GoFundMe page has raised more than $48,000. The Thomas family has used social media to keep the North Paulding community updated.

“I believe that’s why she’s still here because their prayers are so specific and they know what they are praying for,” Shanna Thomas said.

In a Facebook post, Thomas encouraged those prayers to continue.

“Keep praying ...she feels them ... we need them,” she said.